Austin Beutner, who officially starts Tuesday as the new superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is taking on a famously difficult job at a particularly difficult time. The school board is divided and did not back him unanimously. The nation’s second-largest school district has deep-seated problems, including declining enrollment, lagging academic achievement and rising pension and healthcare costs that eat away at its budget.
The 58-year-old former investment banker and former L.A. Times publisher has years of experience in the financial world but none as an educator. Earlier this week, he sat down with the Times education team to discuss the challenges facing the district, which has about 60,000 employees and 500,000 students in traditional public schools. He did not talk about his plans — saying repeatedly, “stay tuned” — but he spoke in broad terms about his mindset in approaching the tough decisions ahead.